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By Rebekah Cowan All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Scifi

Chapter 1

“Wake up Josie. You must start your day now.”

I groaned at the voice invading my dream and rolled over beneath the warmth of the comforter. A second late, I sat up with a yelp as a small electrical charge registered at the base of my skull. Frowning at the floor, I rubbed the spot where my skin was slightly raised due to the neural implant.

“Time to get moving Josie. You have a busy day ahead. Leaving for work in 45 minutes will optimize your commute.”

I let out a soft sigh as the insistent voice of Opti, the artificial intelligence that was at the heart of the neural implant, filled my mind. Opti was short for Optimize, the world altering technology of the Optimus Corporation. Fifty year ago, smartphones and voice recognition was the height of the technical world. Phone companies and computer juggernauts battled amongst themselves about who could come out with the latest gadget until the obsession with having the newest technology drove the American public to near bankruptcy. Technology moguls rose and fell until, out of the rubble, rose the Optimus Corp with a simple promise to the public.

Optimize your life. Let Opti turn you into the most efficient you possible.

What they had offered was revolutionary and controversial. Sub dermal implants that acted as smart phone, GPS, and personal computer while all being conveniently updated through Optimus’ main computer. No more purchasing the newest model or worrying about a broken device. After the original reviews of happiness from the first trial groups, it had become insanely popular and soon spread past the United States to the rest of the world. By the time Josie had gotten to college, the implant was being offered as part of a scholarship program. It had helped her keep her school schedule, assignments, and work clearly managed while providing the virtual classroom lessons for her to review during her late night cram sessions. In short, it had optimized her school life to the point that she was able to cruise through the 4 years of college on the Dean’s list each semester, when before she had been a C student at best.

“You are daydreaming Josie. If you do not get ready for work, you shall be late for your presentation.”

Shaking her head to pull her out of the revelry, Josie swung her legs onto the now optimally heated floor and padded bare foot to the shower. As she prepared for the day, Opti kept up a steady stream of chatter about the plans for the day. Thanks to the additional implants in the ear canal and the retinal implants in her blue eyes, everything that Josie saw and heard from Opti was only between the two of them. The retinal implants had not been a part of the original treatment but Josie’s company had paid for the upgrade as a part of her most recent promotion. Once clean, Josie wrapped a towel around herself and stood in front of the closet, trying to decide which suit would look best. After a moment’s pause, Opti once again chirped in her ear.

“Statistically, the color blue gives people a sense of calm and trust. It would optimize your presentation if you choose the blue suit.”

That was Opti, always focused on the best option for the most beneficial result. Optimize everything in her life in such a way as to make her the best Josie she could be. The problem was Josie hated the way she looked in blue. It washed her out and she always thought that black was better for business dealings. It just simply looked more professional. As she grabbed the black suit, she did her best to ignore the insistent ramblings of Opti, still trying to convince her that the blue would be a better choice. She was starting to do that more; Ignoring Opti’s advice on the more inconsequential matters of her life. Josie did not know why but recently it had become more important that she exercise some of her own free will. She finished dressing and headed down stairs to the kitchen.

Her husband of ten years was already eating breakfast at their small kitchen table. Josie gave him a small smile before turning to the strange mix of microwave and oven and speaking in a clear voice.

“Eggs, scrambled. Bacon, extra crispy. Buttered Rye Toast please.” There was a slight pause and then a small ding from the machine. When Josie opened the door, what was on the plate was not what she had requested. Egg whites, and turkey bacon. Opti’s voice sounded in her head.

“Your cholesterol is too high. Changes have been made to your diet in order to optimize your health. Fruit is ready in the refrigerator.”

Josie let out another soft sigh and opened the fridge door to find a small selection of pears and grapes. Taking the cup of coffee that was already steaming under the coffee maker, Josie sat across from her husband without a sound. He was a polite, quiet man with a good job. They had 2 children, a boy and a girl. Josie could not be more miserable. She had married him because Opti said that their marriage would be the most beneficial. She could not argue with results but there was no passion or love between them. They ate in silence and when she was done, she left the kitchen with no more interaction than a soft brush of her lips on his cheek. Her dishes were placed in the sink to be handled by the automatic washer.

Her ride into work was the same as every other day. All cars were hooked up to the Optimize network so there was not even a steering wheel for her to handle. There was no such thing as traffic jams or even car accidents anymore. All cars were synchronized with each other so that they never came within striking distance. Josie did not even have a driver’s license. They were a thing of the past along with gas powered cars. When she finally got to work, her day was filled with one meeting after another. Unlike days of the past where she would have had to deal with binders overflowing in papers, or flash drives of various files, Opti stored all information in the implant as it connected to the others via the WIFI connection. Powerpoints and spreadsheets were shown through the optical implant onto any white, flat surface. Thanks to Opti, the forests of the planet were thriving with the paper that was not being wasted on a daily basis from hundreds of businesses like Josie’s. It was mostly an uneventful day until she received an email late in the evening. It looked like any of the junk emails she would receive except for the Subject line.

Revolution your life with our new coffee! Only $7 at the 1st Street Café.

Nothing unusual about it in any way but it told Josie everything she needed to know. Tonight at 7 her life was going to change. She was going to have the implant removed! The movement to return to humanity had found its newest recruit.

At 6:30 that night, instead of getting into her car as normal, she walked the 6 blocks to 1st street and entered the small café. From the outside, it looked nothing like any other coffee shop that thrived on every corner. But when she went through the kitchen to a door hidden in the walk in freezer, it led to an underground surgical grade lab. She started to introduce herself to the gathered figures hovering around the wall but a commanding voice came from a purple haired woman who was pulling a surgical mask over her mouth.

“We know who you are. No names. Just lay down, face pointing towards the ground. This will not take long.”

Josie nodded and laid down on what looked to be a modified massage table. She jolted when she felt cold metal restraints sliding over her wrists and ankles. When she tried to lift her head, an unnaturally strong hand pressed on her neck, holding her down. The woman’s voice came again, this time next to her ear.

“Did you think that you could get away with this? That we wouldn’t know what you are trying to do. No one leave Opti, Josie. No one. You are not optimal. You have become inefficient. You shall be optimized.”

She screamed, she struggled. She did everything she could but nothing could stop the bite of the needle going into her neck. Then the slow spread of paralysis through her limbs. She saw movement and then the flash of metal in the light. A new implant. Slightly larger than her current one, so far more power. For a moment, her mind was clear as the old chip was removed and she had a single moment of hers being the only voice in her mind. A thousand worries, thoughts, and fears filled her and then…peace. Opti whispered through her mind like a breeze, taking away all her worry and thoughts. Opti wanted the best for her. Opti would optimize her life. She trusted Opti. She needed Opti. She was Opti.

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